A nationwide shortage of bicycles – caused by an increased appetite for cycling during lockdown – is delaying plans to have hundreds available for public use in Aberdeen.
Council chiefs claim the bike sharing scheme could be launched in the spring as they “resolve” issues finding the vehicles, though it had initially been hoped people could already be making use of the facilities this summer.
Similar to London’s Boris Bikes, named after the then-mayor, now prime minister, Town House insiders have nicknamed the project Barney Bikes after Lord Provost Barney Crockett.
Work remains ongoing to source the fleet of around 450 bikes, both electric and pedal-powered, which will be placed at docking stations at key spots around the city.
While the idea was unveiled in 2018, the charity was unveiled as the council’s partner in the venture three years later, this March.
It comes as interest in cycling reached new peaks this week, as thousands turned out to watch the Tour Of Britain’s final stage wind through Deeside to finish at Aberdeen beach.
Thousands of tourists are hoped to come to the north-east off the back of the television coverage, showing the region as an idyllic place to take in by bicycle.
Lockdown-inspired ‘run’ on bikes delays Aberdeen sharing scheme
The local authority has struck a deal with the Big Issue to run the bike sharing programme, with the social enterprise to recruit and retrain the unemployed to maintain the vehicles.
More than 30 locations have been suggested for bike stations so far, including Union Street, Broad Street, the Robert Gordon University, Duthie Park and Aberdeen Airport.
Councillor Marie Boulton, who speaks for the administration on the city centre masterplan work, told us: “Active travel is really worthy of encouragement – and our masterplan refers to us becoming a cycling city.
“Part of that is how people would access the city on bikes, using the Big Issue bike scheme that will be going ahead – once we manage to secure them.
“There seems to have been a bit of a shortage as Covid caused a bit of a run on the bikes.
“We are looking at hubs around the city, at the universities and hospitals so there is availability and access to bikes.
“We are trying to do everything we can for cyclists but we have to be mindful there are people unable to use bikes or walk long distances, so we have to make the city convenient for everyone.”
Previously, Aberdeen City Council has placed the cost of setting up the scheme at up to £640,000 – with yearly costs of as much as £256,000 to keep it going.
However, it is claimed that price will not be met by the taxpayer, instead being paid for through the subscription charges consumers will pay to use the kit.
Dundee bikeshare court ruling worth noting for Aberdeen City Council
With city centre sites expected to potentially include the Castlegate and the historic Aberdeen University, a court ruling earlier this week could well inform the council‘s work.
With only five objections, officials were able to approve the proposals, but had there been six it would have gone before councillors for approval.
The Court of Session ruled there was a procedural error, as no drawing were included of how the ultra-modern equipment would look in the conservation area.
Lord Weir said: “It is impossible to know what the outcome of the process of public notification would have been had a design statement accompanied the application for planning permission in this case.
“One certainly cannot assume that the same five objectors, or only those five objectors, would have come forward with the same objections.”
Lord Weir decreed the planning permission granted last September – which allowed the 10-bike docking station and charging terminal to already have been installed – was “of no effect”.